Collectively, the three bread majors Kingsmill, Warburtons and Hovis pulled in sales of £388.4m ($612m) for the year ending October 14, 2014, according to fresh IRI data*.
Kingsmill White placed sixth in the charts, making £135.1m ($212.8m) in sales, closely followed by Warburtons White in eighth with £133.3m ($210.4m). Hovis’ white loaf just missed the top 10, placing eleventh with sales of £120m ($189.5m). Sales data for packaged white bread was calculated from the following for each brand: Kingsmill medium and thick-sliced; Warburtons 'toastie' and 'thickest'; and Hovis medium and thick-sliced. Warburtons does have another variety on the market - it's medium-sliced loaf - which generated £86.6m in sales for the same period.
Tim Eales, strategic insights director at IRI UK, said it was no surprise that white loaves were the biggest bread sellers.
“What people have grown up with, I think, sticks in their mind and a lot of people have grown up with white bread being the thing for sandwiches and toast,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
However, IRI data revealed that every brand saw sales plummet from the previous year. Kingsmill’s sales dropped 14.9%; Warburtons 12.2%; and Hovis 10.6%.
Why the drop?
“One thing to bear in mind is this bread data doesn’t include in-store bakeries. That might be having an effect as well, so we should keep that in mind,” Eales said.
“…The market for pre-packed bread is under pressure because of the growth of in-store bakeries to a large degree and you’re seeing things go down.”
Despite this, he said the pre-packed bread market remained huge – generating a value of £1.5bn ($2.36bn) in the year ending November 8, 2014. Within this, white bread accounted for more than 50% of sales - £795.5m ($1.2bn).
These products, he said, continued to be popular with the masses despite strong messaging from campaigners that white bread wasn’t the healthiest option.
“There are an awful lot of people out there. This is sometimes what we seem to forget, and a lot of them have quite engrained ways of eating and how they want to do their shopping and what they want to feed their families. If it’s a struggle to get brown bread into your children, you’ll obviously give them white.”
Healthier bread varieties like brown or seeded had not risen as fast as expected, he said.
Brown bread, for example, represented less than 20% of the UK’s £1.5bn packaged bread sector and saw a 3.1% sales decline on the previous year.
Interest however, was clearly there, Eales said, with most money (in absolute terms) being spent on brown bread compared to other white bread alternatives. Value shares of ‘bread with bits’ like seeded varieties and half & half products, however, had also risen.
Kingsmills’ Half & Half bread made it into IRI’s top 20 – placing fourteenth with £101.1m ($159m) in sales.
“The half & half is a bit more of a popular trend – it’s picking up a bit faster than straightforward brown bread,” Eales said. Sales of half & half varieties overall had remained steady compared to last year. Sales of Kingsmills' brand, however, posted a sales decline of 0.2% on the previous year.
*Sales for IRI’s top 20 list were taken from all UK multiples, convenience stores, independent grocers as well as newsagents and tobacconists. The data, however, excluded discounters.
For further BakeryandSnacks.com coverage on IRI's latest data click here > 'Part II on snacks'.